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by Tom Freeman
26 February 2016
A BBC Scottish Six news won't be a panacea for the cultural cringe

A BBC Scottish Six news won't be a panacea for the cultural cringe

The BBC’s announcement it is to pilot a ‘Scottish Six’ news programme has provoked quite a reaction.

Interesting to see some of the same people who stood outside Pacific Quay burning effigies before the independence referendum, calling for the downfall of the unionist propaganda machine the British Broadcasting Corporation, now demanding that same body produce an hour-long news programme for them at six o’clock.

Those who question the decision, of course, are talking Scotland down.


Give BBC Scotland more power, says Education and Culture Committee

Is public service broadcasting going the way of universalism?

However to suggest Scotland couldn’t produce a quality hour-long news programme, or that there isn’t enough interesting things to talk about north of the border is blatantly rubbish. Scotland has enough of a distinctive political and cultural landscape to warrant an hour of coverage.

 As Stuart Cosgrove has said, Scotland is “a country rich in stories”.

Meanwhile having a national news programme focus on English domestic education and health issues is clearly an unnecessary irritation.

But it seems a lot of eggs have been placed in the ‘Scottish six’ basket. A great weight of responsibility and significance is being placed on the programme, which can only lead to disappointment.

Early signs are not encouraging. The early proposals for a Scottish six are looking to import ‘big names’ from down south.

BBC establishment stalwart Fiona Bruce has been mentioned as an anchor. The corporation is to send in the big guns, despite focus groups in Scotland telling them they weren’t bothered either way where their news programmes were made.

In reality, people care less about their TV news than those in the political bubble would like to think. If the proposal was to devolve the Great British Bake Off, 15 million people would be up in arms.

If anyone really wants to tackle the ‘cultural cringe’, they’re going to have to stop this fixation with news. Journalism is a small part of the BBC, an even smaller part of broadcasting, a tiny part of culture and a next to insignificant part of national identity, in the grand scheme of things.

Will hearing a more familiar accent inform us of what’s happening in Syria really prevent generation after generation of Scottish actors moving to London to increase their chances of being cast in Shetland? Will it stop BBC Scotland flying London-based talent up to Glasgow to produce and perform network programming? Will it increase the confidence of broadcasters to invest in Scottish stories for network and global export? Will it bring that ever-elusive Scottish film industry closer to realisation?

Evidently it would do none of these things.

If, as it seems, the real ambition is only to make the British Broadcasting Corporation less British, then this whole exercise is a missed opportunity, and does nothing to stop Scottish cultural spending – and talent – flowing south.

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